A modern epic of coming of age in a great city, a brilliant tableau of life among the newcomers who have changed the face of Istanbul over the past fifty years.
Since his boyhood in a poor village in Central Anatolia, Mevlut Karata has fantasized about what his life would become. Not getting as far in school as he'd hoped, at the age of twelve he comes to Istanbul - "the center of the world" - and is immediately enthralled by both the old city that is disappearing and the new one that is fast being built. He follows his father's trade, selling boza (a traditional mildly alcoholic Turkish drink) on the street, and hoping to become rich, like other villagers who have settled the desolate hills outside the booming metropolis. But luck never seems to be on Mevlut's side. As he watches his relations settle down and make their fortunes, he spends three years writing love letters to a girl he saw just once at a wedding, only to elope by mistake with her sister. And though he grows to cherish his wife and the family they have, he stumbles toward middle age in a series of jobs leading nowhere. His sense of missing something leads him sometimes to the politics of his friends and intermittently to the teachings of a charismatic religious guide. But every evening, without fail, Mevlut still wanders the streets of Istanbul, selling boza and wondering at the "strangeness" in his mind, the sensation that makes him feel different from everyone else, until fortune conspires once more to let him understand at last what it is he has always yearned for.
Told from different perspectives by a host of beguiling characters, A Strangeness in My Mind is a modern epic of coming of age in a great city, a brilliant tableau of life among the newcomers who have changed the face of Istanbul over the past fifty years. Here is a mesmerizing story of human longing, sure to take its place among Pamuk's finest achievements.
A Strangeness In My Mind brilliantly illuminates the difference between the happiness and contentment — for between these states of mind lies an entirely different mindset and attitude toward life that can make or break a man. And Mevlut, just like his beloved Istanbul, is nothing if not resilient — he knows how to take change squarely in the jaw and yet retain his essential indomitable spirit.
(Reviewed by Poornima Apte).
Full Review (954 words).
One of the many historical events that are featured glancingly in A Strangeness in My Mind is the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus.
For a long time Cyprus was a part of the Ottoman Empire, which arguably explains why Turkey considered it its own, even after the Ottoman Empire handed over governance of the island to Great Britain in 1878 in a secret agreement that exchanged Cyprus for Britain's support of the Ottoman's cause in settling boundary issues in the Balkans. In 1914 Britain annexed Cyprus and, following the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, Cyprus became a Crown Colony in 1925.
Cyprus's mix of ethnic Greeks and Turks lived in shaky peace as a British colony, but increasing nationalistic rhetoric from both Turkey and Greece ...
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